First of all, what is group touring?
Group tours are basically just organized tours that have set itineraries and either covers a few different countries or looks at one country in-depth. Typically the journey is by coach but can be by train, ship and/or even include some flights depending on where you are and the tour you’re on.
One of the benefits of group touring is that everything is organized for you beforehand. This generally includes all your transport, accommodation, airport transfers, some meals and entry into the museums or sites which take a lot of the stress of planning all this on your own away.
It is always recommended that you arrive into your departure city a day or two before the tour starts and finishes, just in case there are any unexpected travel delays. The majority of these tour companies can organize pre & post nights’ accommodation on your behalf.
Who is group touring for?
If you’re traveling solo and are not savvy or confident with travel then group tours are a great option. First of all you will be traveling with a whole bunch of like minded people so it won’t even feel like you’re alone plus you will have the local expertise of your guide who will know where to eat, where to go out and in general what there is to do in the city. This is a great way to meet other travelers and learn about the place you are traveling in.
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Group tours are not just for solo travelers, they are also for people who want to learn all about the history and culture of a country or region. These tours generally visit most of the attractions and with the knowledge of your guide you will undoubtedly learn something new and experience a side of a country that you may have missed or not known about if you had traveled solo.
Some tours are even specialized, for instance, if you wanted to visit the castles of Europe, wilderness treks or Island hopping etc, the list goes on and therefore means there is most likely a tour suited to your interests.
One thing you may want to watch out for is whether or not the tour is ‘guaranteed’. This means that regardless of a number of people on the tour they will be going ahead with the tour where as if it is not a ‘guaranteed tour’ If the tour doesn’t fill up the seats the tour company may cancel, so do ask about the guaranteed options when trying to book. At the very least ask whether or not some seats have already been sold on the no guaranteed tour that you may have chosen.
Group tours do go from city to city almost daily and while they do they give you ‘free time’ along the way it is still fairly fast paced meaning that you will need to pack and unpack at each stop. Some people do prefer to do things at their own pace and travel independently for this reason.
These tours also vary in length but are generally no more than a few weeks at the most which means you will most likely be traveling independently at some point. But this is a good way to meet other people first who may end up traveling with and to get you familiar with Europe and getting around etc.
I personally backpacked Europe independently but I had the luxury of meeting up with different people in different countries for the first few weeks of my travels. When I ended up going my own way I was a little more confident by this stage I knew how to find good flights, how to book etc.
Traveling independently was a good option for me because I do like to ‘wing it’ and just go with the flow. I met people in hostels and if we felt like visiting a museum or going on some sort of day tour we could go together or if I didn’t feel like doing anything then I could just stay in or do something else that I wanted to do.
This option may not be for everyone particularly if you are by yourself because traveling this way means new and strange faces everywhere you go, compared to the group tours where you are with the same people for the duration of the tour.
Traveling independently means that you (and/or the people you are traveling with) are virtually on your own and have to book everything yourselves and organize your own way to and from any attractions or sites.
When choosing your options consider how much you want to explore a country or culture, whether you can handle meeting new people daily or for the time of a tour, whether or not you have safety concerns traveling without a guide and how savvy you are with traveling in general. Whatever you choose, you will be having an uplifting, fun and extraordinary experience.